I Do If
a child discloses they've
been sexually abused?
For kids who have had their trust violated by an adult in a position of authority whom they once trusted, it’s not an easy road ahead for them to immediately feel safe…but through the right coarse of actions taken by those who love the child, trust can eventually be restored.
Children who have been the victim of abuse should never be placed anywhere near the vicinity of the abuser. Feeling safe is of paramount importance. If this is not done and the child is constantly subjected in the presence of their attacker or anyone who validates the attacker, their anxiety and trust issues will only heighten.
To help a child survive and trust again, the child needs (at least) one consistent and healthy relationship with an adult who will be present. It doesn't have to be a family member.
Talk with the child: Open communication builds trust and is a constructive coping skill - start the conversation. Listen to their thoughts, feelings, and point of view with empathy – don't interrupt.
Accept feelings: Especially anger. Allow the child to fully express their anger, make a safe space for them to do so. This is something so vital for the healing process, but rarely understood. Anxiety, irritability, anger and depression are normal reactions to loss and trauma and will subside over time in a safe environment.
Be patient: It takes time for a child to come to terms with trauma and grief.
Encourage healthy expression: Children act out distress negatively without constructive outlets; foster the use of talking, art, music, journaling etc, find the child's interests. Do these things together.
Maintain consistency: Routines, security and stability; safe spaces, rules, expectations, boundaries - structure.
Promote a sense of control: Children feel helpless and powerless in response to trauma. Help them believe they can successfully deal with challenges via constructive activities (e.g., hobbies, sports, clubs, volunteering).
Make home a safe place: Your home should be a “safe haven,” a place of comfort, security and peace; stress and chaos provokes traumatic reactions; minimise conflict and discipline with calmness and love.
Advocate for the child. Ensure the child gets counselling and be open in discussing how they feel about it. Seek counselling yourself in order to understand as much as possible how to support the child.